Sakura Salon 03/29/2015 – Franz Lizst

Liszt

Before Beatlemania, there was Lizstomania!

When you think of rock n’ roll, Franz Liszt might not be the first name that comes to mind. But the classical pianist, born over 200 years ago, was in many ways the first rock star of all time.

In the mid-19th century, Liszt was tearing up the polite salons and concert halls of Europe with his virtuoso performances. Women would literally attack him: tear bits of his clothing, fight over broken piano strings and locks of his shoulder-length hair. Europe had never seen anything like it. It was a phenomenon the great German poet Heinrich Heine dubbed “Lisztomania.”

“We hear about women throwing their clothes onto the stage and taking his cigar butts and placing them in their cleavages,” says Stephen Hough, a world-renowned concert pianist.

Liszt also revolutionized the art of performance.

“Liszt was a very dynamic personality,” Hough says. “He was someone who seduced people — not just in a sexual way, but in a dramatic way. He was someone who, like a great speaker, was able to capture an audience.”

Before Franz Liszt, no one thought a solo pianist could hold anyone’s attention, let alone captivate an audience. Liszt set out across Europe in 1839 to prove the conventional wisdom wrong. As part of that mission, he made a radical decision to never bring his scores onstage.

“Before Liszt, it was considered almost in bad taste to play from memory,” Hough explains. “Chopin once chided a student: It looked almost arrogant, as if you were pretending that the piece you were playing was by you. Liszt saw that playing the piano, especially for a whole evening in front of an audience, it was a theatrical event that needed not just musical things happening but physical things on the stage.”

Liszt deliberately placed the piano in profile to the audience so they could see his face. He’d whip his head around while he played, his long hair flying, beads of sweat shooting into the crowd. He was the first performer to stride out from the wings of the concert hall to take his seat at the piano.

Everything we recognize about the modern piano recital — think Keith Jarrett, Glenn Gould, Tori Amos or Elton John — Liszt did first. Even the name “recital” was his invention.

 

But although his life was the kind many musicians dream of, Liszt walked away from it all in his 30s.

“He wasn’t someone who thought life just consisted of food, drink and all the pleasure you could wring out of it. He was someone who was always searching,” Hough says. “I mean, he even considered the priesthood in his teens. So, he was never going to be satisfied just with pleasing the countesses. I think he also realized how superficial a lot of audiences’ appreciation might be, and he wanted to retire and to do something more meaningful.”

Later on in his life, Liszt became interested in conducting, and he re-defined that role as well: He started to work with individual musicians to help them shape the sounds that he was after.

“Before Liszt, a conductor was someone who just facilitated the performance, who would keep people together or beat the time, indicate the entries,” Hough says. “After Liszt, that was no longer the case; a conductor was someone who shaped the music in an intense musical way, who played the orchestra as an instrument.”

And, of course, Liszt would go on to compose around 1,400 works. He died in 1886, but all through the 20th century, his influence could be heard — in the works of fellow Hungarian composers Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly, as well as in the writing of his son-in-law, Richard Wagner.

 

Playlist:

Grandes Etudes de Paganini, S141 – No.3 in G sharp minor (“La Campanella”)

3 Etudes de Concert, S.144 – No. 3 in D flat “Un sospiro” (Allegro affettuoso)

FRANZ SCHUBERT – Ellens Gesang III, D. 839, Op. 52, No. 6, ‘Ave Maria’

LIZST TRANSCRIPTION – Ellens Gesang III (Ave Maria), S558 no.12 (after Schubert’s D839)

FRANZ SCHUBERT – Erlkönig, D. 328

LIZST TRANSCRIPTION – Erlkönig, S.558 No.4 (after Schubert D.328)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (Piano Version)

Liebestraum No.3 in A flat, S.541 No.3

Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418

Sakura Salon 03/22/2015 – Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons

The details of Vivaldi’s life are surprisingly sketchy. Even extensive modern scholarship leaves many wide gaps in his whereabouts and activities. Biographies typically devote at most a few dozen pages to his career and the rest to his works. Indeed, only in 1962 was his birthdate determined from baptismal records to have been 1678; prior writers had placed it as early as 1669.

Vivaldi learned the violin from his father, a Venetian barber who played in the orchestra of San Marco cathedral. He was ordained in 1703 and, thanks to his flaming hair (blanched in his only color portrait, perhaps due to a powdered wig), became known as the Red Priest, but his ecclesiastical functions were forestalled by bronchial asthma, which denied him the stamina to say a complete mass. The next year he became a violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage for a thousand girls, of whom a few dozen received intensive musical training. In 1716, he became the music director.

Among his duties was to provide two concertos per month (even while he was away) for concerts given each Sunday by the school orchestra (in which, to the amazement of visitors, the students played all the instruments, rather than just the ones deemed suitable for ladies, and whose sensual attraction undoubtedly contributed to their widespread fame among gentlemen patrons). Despite a bumpy relationship with the school administrators, Vivaldi enjoyed considerable freedom, not only to fill his compositions with whimsy and technical hurdles to challenge his students and display their artistry, but to travel extensively to fulfill commissions and to stage his operas. Although Vivaldi negotiated sizable fees for his work, he spent prolifically and died in poverty during a 1741 trip to Vienna, where he was given a pauper’s funeral.

For nearly 200 years, Vivaldi was a historical footnote, although a somewhat influential one – the twelve concerti comprising his first publication (L’estro armonico, 1711) were widely imitated. Yet, as Groves’ Dictionary aptly observes, the current repertory system lay well in the future; instead there was a constant need for new output. Thus, soon after his death his few publications were forgotten and the rest of his output remained unknown. His only lasting recognition came from the fervent admiration of Bach, who modeled his own concerto style after Vivaldi’s and adapted for keyboard nine Vivaldi violin concerti (even though Bach devotees tended to disparage the source).

That suddenly changed in 1926 when a monastery presented a massive cache of old scores to Turin University for appraisal prior to sale to fund repairs. The collection was traced back to a Count Durazzo, who had purchased the lot from the Ospedale, donated half to the monastery and passed the remainder to his heirs. Lawsuits overrode the Count’s will, which forbade publication, and private donations kept the scores intact and off the antiques market. Among them were a huge number of Vivaldi’s handwritten originals, including over 300 previously unknown works. Scholars delved through the treasure and were astounded by the unsuspected diversity and range. Since World War II, a burgeoning of biographies, catalogs, analyses, performances and recordings have led to a thorough reevaluation of Vivaldi’s significance and a new understanding and appreciation of the scope of his art.

 

In 1725 in Amsterdam, Vivaldi published twelve violin concerti entitled Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (literally, The Contest of Harmony and Invention). The first four were designated Le Quattro Staggioni (The Four Seasons). In his dedication, Vivaldi alludes to his patron having enjoyed them long ago and asks that they be accepted as if they were new, thus suggesting that they had been composed and performed much earlier.

While song and opera tie music closely to words, instrumental music at best reflects an abstract overall mood, but with the Four Seasons Vivaldi decisively bridged that gap. Each of the four concertos is prefaced by a sonnet (presumably written by the composer) full of allusions ripe for sonic depiction. Thus, the first greets Spring with a profusion of birds, the breath of gentle breezes, a murmuring stream, swaying plants, a goatherd lulled to sleep and shepherds holding a celebratory bagpipe dance. (Summer brings torrid heat, buzzing insects and a violent storm; Fall a harvest celebration and a hunt; and Winter chattering teeth, stamping feet, slipping on ice, shelter by an inside fire and, for a zesty conclusion, a howling windstorm.)

Not only are the individual verses printed in the score alongside the music they are intended to depict but Vivaldi adds further phrases (“the barking dog,” “the tears of the peasant boy,” “the drunkard”) to clarify specific allusions. His music depicts some rather literally (accurate imitations of specific bird calls and pizzicato raindrops) and others metaphorically (dissonance to underline a winter chill, rapid scales to portray swirling winds.) While all this may sound like a dry schematic for a sound effects track, it all fits musically and centuries later is still enthralling to hear and enjoy. While the Four Seasons may have originated as a routine assignment for his girls to play once, Vivaldi clearly poured his heart and soul into this work.

 

THE FOUR SEASONS:

1: Concerto No.1 in E Major, RV 269, “SPRING”

Allegro / Largo / Allegro (Pastorale dance)

2: Concerto No.2 in g minor, RV 315, “SUMMER”

Allegro non molto – Allegro / Adagio � Presto � Adagio / Presto (Summer Storm)

3: Concerto No.3 in F Major, RV 293, “AUTUMN”

Allegro (Peasant Dance and Song) / Adagio molto (Sleeping Drunkards) / Allegro (The Hunt)

4: Concerto No.4 in f minor, RV 297, “WINTER”

Allegro non molto / Largo / Allegro

 

Program Music

One of the earliest uses of music was in the accompaniment of theatrical dance and story-telling, so it is natural that composers should from time to time produce what we know as “program music” � music written to portray events, activities or moods such as pastoral scenes or storms. Music representing the moods of the four seasons has always been popular, and baroque composers such as Werner and Fischer among others produced cycles of concertos representing the fours seasons. But none were to do so in such precise pictorial detail as Antonio Vivaldi in his Four Seasons concertos.

As a descriptive basis for his Four Seasons, Vivaldi took four Sonnets, apparently written by himself. Each of the four sonnets is expressed in a concerto, which in turn is divided into three phrases or ideas, reflected in the three movements (fast-slow-fast) of each concerto. The published scores (by Estienne Roger of Amsterdam in 1725) are marked to indicate which musical passages are representative of which verses of the sonnet. It is advisable, at least during the first few hearings, to follow the sonnets and music together, for they are bound up with one another to an extent rarely heard in any other programmatic pieces either of the baroque period or subsequently.

 

SPRING

Allegro

Springtime is upon us.

The birds celebrate her return with festive song,

and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.

Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,

Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

 Largo

On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

 Allegro

Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

 

SUMMER

 Allegro non molto

Under a hard Season, fired up by the Sun

Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine

We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.

Soft breezes stir the air… but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside.

The shepherd trembles, fearing violent storms and his fate.

Adagio e piano – Presto e forte

The fear of lightning and fierce thunder

Robs his tired limbs of rest

As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

 Presto

Alas, his fears were justified

The Heavens thunders and roar and with hail

Cuts the head off the wheat and damages the grain.

 

AUTUMN

 Allegro

Celebrates the peasant, with songs and dances,

The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.

And fired up by Bacchus’ liquor, many end their revelry in sleep.

Adagio molto

Everyone is made to forget their cares and to sing and dance

By the air which is tempered with pleasure

And (by) the season that invites so many, many

Out of their sweetest slumber to fine enjoyment

Allegro

The hunters emerge at the new dawn,

And with horns and dogs and guns depart upon their hunting

The beast flees and they follow its trail;

Terrified and tired of the great noise

Of guns and dogs, the beast, wounded, threatens

Languidly to flee, but harried, dies.

 

WINTER

 Allegro non molto

To tremble from cold in the icy snow,

In the harsh breath of a horrid wind;

To run, stamping one’s feet every moment,

Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold

Largo

Before the fire to pass peaceful,

Contented days while the rain outside pours down.

 Allegro

We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling.

Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up.

We feel the chill north winds course through the home despite the locked and bolted doors…

this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights.

Sakura Salon 03/15/2015 – Jelly Roll Morton

This Salon was held on the road, in New Toulouse!   For the event, we went to the beginnings of jazz, and Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hots.

JellyRollMorton

Morton, Jelly Roll (Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe)

Pianist Jelly Roll Morton invented himself, even if he did not invent jazz, as he once claimed. Born Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe, his formidable technique at the keyboard enabled him to reproduce the polyphonic sounds of New Orleans’ street bands, which he then brought to a national audience.

Jelly often misrepresented the facts of his life, as he sought to play up his role in the emergence of jazz. However, the contours of his early career are now well established. He was born on October 20, 1890 in New Orleans to parents of a common-law marriage.

As a teenager, young Ferdinand took on his step-father’s surname of Mouton, and lived in the home of his great-grandmother, Mimi Pechet. When he began frequenting the tenderloin district of New Orleans, largely known for its brothels and gambling joints, he was exposed to a wide variety of society music and the piano players who worked there.

in 1906, he began working in the brothels of Storyville as a pianist, and told his religious great-grandmother that his spending money came from a job in a barrel factory. After he bought a showy new suit and hat, his true source of income was discovered, and she threw him out. Traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi, he stayed in the home of his godmother, Laura Hunter/Eulaley Hécaud, who he later claimed was a practitioner of “voodoo” or vodun, the West African religious system which traveled to New Orleans with migrants from Haiti.

In Biloxi, he earned money playing piano at The Flat Top and other clubs. Morton said he was forced to leave Biloxi and returned to New Orleans after threats of lynching, when rumors spread he had become romantically involved with Mattie Bailey, the proprietor of an all-white club.

In 1908, the pianist began using the Anglicized surname “Morton,” and traveled the Southern United States. He frequently worked as a soloist, but also joined the vaudeville shows of Billy Kersand’s Minstrels, Fred Barrasso and McCabe’s Troubadours. By this time, he also had begun wearing a trademark – a diamond insert in his gold front tooth. Morton gambled avidly, continued to dress the part of larger-than-life entertainer, and quickly earned a reputation as a cocky teller of boastful tales. In 1910 and 1911, Morton made his first trips to Chicago and New York.

For two years, Morton and his girlfriend Rosa Brown toured as a vaudeville act. He also developed a repertoire of arranged music that was written down in parts for pick-up bands to play with him. Musically, Morton’s piano style developed early on, with a unique left hand bass line that mimicked the sound of the New Orleans ‘tailgate’ trombone playing.

His playing would ultimately take on the characteristics of an ensemble, with melody, harmonic support, and rhythmic punctuations all functioning in tandem and giving the sense of multiple elements operating collectively. This collective aspect of Morton’s music also was a pervasive quality of much of the early jazz tradition of New Orleans.

The use of ‘breaks’, or improvised passages, in much of the music coming out of New Orleans around this time also played a significant role in Morton’s style. Breaks are quick stops in the musical activity of the ensemble or solo performer that set up a showy flourish or arpeggiated line, usually only lasting one measure or two before the return to the melodic content of the piece of music. These breaks eventually would become routine in the New Orleans style of jazz, and a pervasive trait of much of the jazz tradition beyond its early years.

Between 1914 and 1917, Morton lived in Chicago. He continued to perform as a soloist and with a variety of ensembles, while also working on publishing his own compositions. “Jelly Roll Blues” is arguably the first in a string of such efforts that also include the tango “The Crave” and the popular ragtime piece “Frog-I-More Rag.”

Traveling to California with bandleader Bill Johnson and his sister Anita Gonzalez, Morton worked as a club owner. Gonzalez (“Mama Nita”) and Morton co-owned a restaurant called The Jupiter, and established a reputation for lively entertainment led by Morton. The Jupiter closed after competitors in the area reported problems to police. Morton then split time between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1923, where he lost large sums of money at the horse tracks.

By the end of 1923, Morton had returned to Chicago. Having composed “Wolverine Blues” around this time, he gained more popularity with this song. Forming a working skiffle band that included instruments like jug, kazoo, and suitcase, he maintained an ambitious performance career in Chicago. Morton also recorded a series of solo piano performances for the Gennett record label based in the Mid-West. These tracks remain some of the most influential early jazz recordings.

Seeking to form an authentic band for further recordings, Morton compiled more of his arrangements of original compositions and popular selections like “Black Bottom Stomp,” “Beale Street Blues,” “The Chant,” “Doctor Jazz,” “Wolverine Blues,” “Wild Man Blues,” “The Pearls,” “King Porter Stomp,” and “Grandpa’s Spells.” He worked for The Victor Talking Machine Company leading a studio band called The Red Hot Peppers. In the band rotation over the next two years were some of the top artists of the era: trombonist Kid Ory, clarinetists Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard and Johnny Dodds, banjoist Johnny St. Cyr, and drummer Baby Dodds, to name a few. Here the New Orleans style of jazz is best exemplified, with collective improvisation being used in the specifically arranged context of Morton’s own conception.

The creative peak of Morton’s career came during his recording sessions for Victor in 1926 and 1927, as the leader of The Red Hot Peppers. Following the popularity of these recordings, and a marriage in 1928 to dancer Mabel Bertrand, the pianist moved to New York.

As Harlem became the cultural capital of Black America, where jazz played an increasingly significant role, Morton’s star might have shown that much brighter. Unfortunately, his period in New York during the late 1920s was less productive for him than the preceding years. He led a New York version of The Red Hot Peppers, which included the ‘gut-bucket’ trumpeter Bubber Miley, drummer Zutty Singleton, and Pops Foster. However, his health faded quickly – something he blamed on a voodoo curse placed on him by his godmother.

Morton’s troubles grew when he was denied access into ASCAP as well as The American Federation of Musicians Union. His publisher, Melrose Music, had dropped him from their roster, and thus he was unable to secure sponsorship in order to join ASCAP.

Morton left New York for Washington, D.C. in 1935. He began a relationship with the city both as a performer and proprietor of The Jungle Inn nightclub, and also collaborated with pioneering researcher Alan Lomax, who at the time was documenting folk life and music for the Library of Congress.

Between May 23 and June 12, 1938, Lomax recorded Morton’s extemporaneous commentary, often punctuated by musical passages at the piano, about his life and career. These recordings, done at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress, are a vital and colorful document which contribute a great deal to our understanding of jazz and its role in American culture in the early twentieth century.

Morton’s own accounts of life in New Orleans, his touring around the U.S., and the various types of people he knew and worked with are told as extravagant tales. The recordings also featured him performing many pieces of music as illustrative examples of his legacy, as well as imitations of unrecorded artists from New Orleans and elsewhere. This includes his statements that jazz music has within it a certain appropriation of structural elements from Latin music, something he dubs “The Spanish Tinge.”

Furthering his own legacy through the Library of Congress sessions with Lomax, Morton also famously wrote to a newspaper and aimed to prop himself up further, writing, “It is evidently known, and beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz and I, myself, happened to be [its] creator in the year 1902.” While many found his claims outlandish, Morton managed to pique the curiosity of others. Morton experienced a slight resurgence in popularity during the late 1930s, at which point he returned to New York to record with Sidney Bechet, Albert Nicholas, and Sidney DeParis.

Morton’s final years were met with steadily declining health, and he moved to California in 1939, hoping to find some relief with the warm climate there. On July 10, 1941, Morton died in Los Angeles. At his funeral, no music was played, and he was buried in a pauper’s grave. His significance as a father of ensemble jazz and music of the New Orleans tradition is, however, nothing short of iconic. Full of personality, his life and musical career became the topic of a Broadway production called Jelly’s Last Jam in the 1990s, which featured Gregory Hines.

Our Playlist

  1. Jelly Roll Morton – Maple Leaf Rag, St. Louis style / Maple Leaf Rag, New Orleans style (4:20)
  2. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Smoke House Blues (3:27)
  3. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – The Chant (3:12)
  4. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Sidewalk Blues (1992 Remastered – Take 3) (3:29)
  5. Jelly Roll Morton – Funeral Marches (4:12)
  6. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Dead Man Blues (Take 2) (3:18)
  7. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Steamboat Stomp (Remastered 1992) (3:04)
  8. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Someday Sweetheart (Remastered 1992) (3:29)
  9. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Grandpa’s Spells (Take 3) (2:53)
  10. Jelly Roll Morton – Original Jelly Roll Blues (4:10)
  11. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Original Jelly-Roll Blues (Remastered 1995) (3:04)
  12. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Billy Goat Stomp (3:30)
  13. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Wild Man Blues (Remastered 1992) (3:08)
  14. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – Beale Street Blues (1992 Remastered) (3:15)
  15. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers – The Pearls (1995 Remastered) (3:26)
  16. Jelly Roll Morton – Wolverine Blues, begun (3:47)
  17. Jelly Roll Morton;Johnny Dodds – Wolverine Blues (1990 Remastered – Take 1) (3:19)
  18. Jelly Roll Morton – Mr. Jelly Lord (4:10)
  19. Jelly Roll Morton;Johnny Dodds – Mr. Jelly Lord (2:52)
  20. Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (3:56)
  21. Jelly Roll Morton – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (4:13)

Sakura Salon – 3/8/2015 – Godspell

godspell

Godspell History

John Michael Tebelak originally produced Godspell at age 22 as his masters thesis project, under the tutelage of Lawrence Carra, at Carnegie Mellon University in December 1970.

He had been studying Greek and Roman mythology, with the deadline for his thesis two weeks away, but became fascinated by the joy he found in the Gospels. He attended an Easter Vigil service in 1970 at Pittsburgh’s St. Paul Cathedral, wearing his usual overalls and T-shirt.   In his words:

 I decided to go to Easter sunrise service to experience, again, the story that I had gotten from the Gospel. As I went, it began to snow which is rather strange for Easter. When I went into the cathedral, everyone there was sitting, grumbling about the snow, and the fact that they had already changed their tires. They weren’t going to be able to take pictures that afternoon. Snow was upsetting their plans.

As the service began, I thought it might be a little different. Instead, an old priest came out and mumbled into a microphone, and people mumbled things back, and then everyone got up and left. Instead of “healing” the burden, or resurrecting the Christ, it seems those people had pushed Him back into the tomb. They had refused to let Him come out that day.

As I was leaving the church, a policeman who had been sitting two pews ahead of me during the service, stopped me and wanted to know if he could search me. Apparently he had thought I was ducking into the church to escape the snowstorm. At that moment—I think because of the absurd situation—it angered me so much that I went home and realized what I wanted to do with the Gospels: I wanted to make it the simple, joyful message that I felt the first time I read them and recreate the sense of community, which I did not share when I went to that service.

I went to my teachers at Carnegie and asked if I could work at my own special project for my masters’ degree, and they agreed. That following fall, in October, we began rehearsals at Carnegie.

 

Based on the Gospel of St Matthew, Tebelak developed the play’s concept, which connected Bible parables with actors behaving like clowns (or comic movie characters) in order to bring a joyful and spontaneous feeling to the material. Tebelak managed to convert a reluctant group of ten cast members to his outlandish notion. For a 1970 production of what was then called “The Godspell” in a tiny theatre on the Carnegie campus, the actors helped develop the playful performance style. The first score, written by a friend of the director, attached rock music to a set of lyrics from hymns and psalms.

It was so popular, they took the show off-off Broadway for a two week run, and producers began to show an interest in the show, but thought that musical score had to be improved.

In 1971, Stephen Schwartz, -also a Carnegie grad – was an ambitious twenty-three-year-old. He had a few college musicals on his resume, along with one Broadway song credit, “Butterflies Are Free,” used in the play of the same name. Fortunately for him, New York agent, Shirley Bernstein (Leonard Bernstein’s sister), had recognized his talent when he played her some songs from the college version of Pippin, and she promoted him to others.

Schwartz saw the version that was staged in the winter of 1971 off-off-Broadway. During their first meeting, Tebelak handed Schwartz a mimeographed script that included psalms, hymns, and parables. New song placement and tunes were now up for grabs, though the show’s basic structure would remain intact. Schwartz recalls about the status of the show, “It just had to be musicalized in a way that was more accessible or emotional, and had more variety.”

With guidance from Schwartz and Tebalak, the cast for the new version of Godspell brought their own character ideas and antics into the mix. Schwartz kept “By My Side” from the off-off-Broadway Godspell, wrote new music for lyrics already in place, and added his own original music and lyrics for “All For the Best,” and “Learn Your Lessons Well.”

 

Song lyric sources

Stephen Schwartz adapted the lyrics or wrote original lyrics for Godspell. All music except for By My side is original. By My Side music is by Peggy Gordon, a member of the original cast.

“Prologue”: various philosophical sources adapted by Tebelek, revised by Schwartz Summer 2000.

“Prepare Ye”: Matthew 3:3 (Isaiah 40:3)

“Save the People”: Episcopal Hymnal 1940, no. 496

“Day by Day”: E. Hymnal, no. 429

“Learn Your Lessons Well”: Original lyric by S.S.

“Bless the Lord”: E. Hymnal, no. 293 (adaptation from Psalm 103)

“All for the Best”: Original lyric by SS.

“All Good Gifts”: E.Hymnal no. 138

“Light of the World”: Adaptation of Matthew 5:13-16

“Turn Back, O Man”: E. Hymnal no. 536

“Alas for You”: Adaptation of Matthew 23:13-37

“By my Side”: Original lyric by Jay Hamburger

“We Beseech Thee”: E. Hymnal no. 229

“On the Willows”: Adaptation of Psalm 137

“Finale”: Original lyric by SS; reprise of Matthew 3:3

“Beautiful City”: The lyrics for the song do not come from scripture but were written for the film version.

 

 

Sakura Salon 2/15/15 – Early Choral Music

Thanks to Diamanda Gustaffson for her guest presentation at our last Salon on early music!  Tonight we continue our look at early music.

Tonight I am going to give a quick overview of Renaissance choral composers.  I was going to get into some more detail, at first, but there is too much to cover in one Salon – and I am also not the expert Diamanda is in early music.  So, instead we will simply go with an overview of some of the important composers and pieces that are generally ones I like.  Hopefully, if you hear something you like, you will have the information to follow up..

First, however we will start with two pieces from the Medieval period, where you can hear that Western tonality and harmonies have not yet settled into what we now culturally feel is ‘normal’.  In some ways, this may remind you of 20th century music when composers were trying to break away from those same tonalities and aural expectations.

 

Playlist (translations at the end of post):

  1. Musica Nova – Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame: Agnus Dei (4:46)
  2. Musica Nova – Andrieu: Armes, amours / O flour des flours (10:10)
  3. Blue Heron – Dufay: Flos florum (3:54)
  4. The Tallis Scholars – Josquin: Missa Pange lingua: Kyrie (2:55)
  5. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier – Josquin: Mille regretz (2:02)
  6. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier – Josquin: Petite camusette (1:01)
  7. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier – Josquin: El grillo (1:49)
  8. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier/David James/Paul Elliott/Leigh Nixon/Michael George – Josquin: La déploration sur la mort de Jehan Ockeghem (5:46)
  9. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Lassus: Justorum Animae (2:05)
  10. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Byrd: Ave Verum Corpus (4:23)
  11. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Victoria: O Magnum Mysterium (3:40)
  12. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Sweelinck: Psalm 96, “Chantez A Dieu Chanson Nouvelle” (1:57)
  13. The Tallis Scholars – Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli: Kyrie (4:49)
  14. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Viadana: Exultate Justi (1:59)
  15. Robert King: The King’s Consort – Gabrieli (G): Kyrie A 12 (7:10)

 

Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377)  – The French composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut is indisputably one of the most prominent figures of 14th-century music. In his numerous poetical and musical works we can recognize an ultimately cultured, educated artist, endowed with refined sense of noble beauty. His personality is a fascinating combination of the culturally and politically influential ecclesiastical elite and a vanishing world of medieval chivalry, embodying the conquest trips across Europe, heroic deeds, but also the warm tones of the love songs intended for noble and beautiful ladies.

Today his four-voice Mass of Notre Dame is a textbook example for medieval counterpoint, and has served sufficiently to maintain his reputation across shifts in fashion.   Although two other cyclical masses predate this one, this is the first existing by a single composer.

Machaut is also considered the last of the line of Trouveres, the musician poets of the “Court of Love”

 

Franciscus Andrieu (late 14th centrury) – a composer, most likely French, of the late 14th century. Nothing is known about him except that he wrote an elegy on the death of Guillaume de Machaut (1377), a four-voice ballade Armes amours / O flour des flours, which is contained in the Chantilly Codex. He also may be tentatively identified as the Magister Franciscus, composer of two other ballades from approximately the same time, though the link can only be made by stylistic similarities.

His music belongs to that portion of late medieval musical practice known as the ars nova.

 

Next we get to our Renaissance composers.

Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474) was one of the most highly regarded composers of his generation, and one of those principally responsible for inaugurating the Renaissance in music.  Dufay was one of the most cosmopolitan composers of his or any age, and his large musical output contains masterpieces in every genre from cyclic masses to isorhythmic motets to simply ornamented hymns and dramatic cycles.

Dufay’s music flows more smoothly than the characteristically complex rhythmic textures of the late Medieval period, and is marked by graceful melodies and a compelling sense of direction.  Today, we value Dufay’s music not only for its grace and invention, but also for its significant historical position in the quickly evolving style of the early Renaissance.

 

Josquin Des Prez  (1450-1521) was one of the most influential and widely regarded composers in the history of Western music, so famous that he is known merely by his first name.  Josquin’s surviving musical output is very large, comprising masses, motets, and secular songs in both French and Italian. His style is marked by the technique of pervasive imitation, in which different vocal lines share material in a subtle interlocking manner. Most of his compositions are for four voices, though larger textures are not uncommon. Typically, Josquin utilizes pair-wise imitation between voices – such that the texture is divided into pairs of voices which interchange material in canon. This technique deliberately eschews the longer lines of the previous generation to concentrate on shorter motifs which lend themselves to various combinations of melody and harmony. This technique was to have direct consequence for the later Renaissance, and for the Baroque and Classical periods as well.

His influential contrapuntal experimentation and structural refinement lead many people to consider Josquin the greatest composer in the history of Western music, and indeed composers would be studying and utilizing his material directly for more than a century.

 

Orlande de  Lassus (1532-1594) was a Netherlandish or Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance. He is today considered to be the chief representative of the mature polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, and one of the three most famous and influential musicians in Europe at the end of the 16th century (the other two being Palestrina and Victoria).

 

William Byrd (1540-1623) was the leading English composer of his generation, and together with his continental colleagues Giovanni Palestrina (c.1525-1594) and Orlando de Lassus (1532-1594), one of the acknowledged great masters of the late Renaissance. Byrd is considered by many the greatest English composer of any age.  He wrote both Catholic and Protestant pieces, in his religious output.

 

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) studied the music of Italian and Iberian masters, including Palestrina, Morales, and Guerrero, becoming a leading composer of the Roman School.

Victoria published his first book of motets in 1572, followed by the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae in 1585, a collection of motets and lamentations for Holy Week Catholic services. These works established Victoria as the most significant composer of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and one of the most highly-regarded composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance.

 

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562- 1621) was a Dutch organist, teacher, and composer. He is widely considered to be the greatest of Dutch composers.

Sweelinck was extremely influential as a teacher, especially of German students (including Scheidemann, Scheidt, Praetorius, and Hasse) who would propagate his compositional techniques far into eastern Europe. He is one of the major figures in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque compositional styles.

 

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition.  He has had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work has often been seen as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.

 

Giovanni Gabrieli (1556-1612) is an important transitional figure between the Renaissance and Baroque eras and their associated musical styles. The distinctive sound of his music derived in part from his association with St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, long one of the most important churches in Europe, and for which he wrote both vocal and instrumental works.

 

Some other terms to know:

Chanson,  (French: “song”)  – French art song of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Motet,  (French mot: “word”)  – style of vocal composition that has undergone numerous transformations through many centuries. Typically (but not always), it is a Latin religious choral composition.

Madrigal – A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six.

 

TRANSLATIONS

 Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

 

Armes Amours / O flour des flours

I dont have this at this time.  😦

 

Flos Florum

Flower of flowers, fount of gardens, queen of the heavens,

hope of pardon, light of joy, remedy of sorrows. 

fresh branch and seemly virgin, model of goodness:

spare the guilty and bring them a reward in the peace of the righteous,

feed your own, succour your own, have mercy upon your own.

 

Kyrie

Lord have mercy

Christ have mercy

Lord have mercy

 

Petite Camusette

Little Camusette (you little minx), you will be the death of me.

Robin and Marion, they went off to the pretty (green) woods.

They went off, they went off arm in arm.

They fell asleep.

Little minx, you will be the death of me.

 

Mille Regretz

A thousand regrets at deserting you

and leaving behind your loving face,

I feel so much sadness and such painful distress,

that it seems to me my days will soon dwindle away.

 

EL Grillo

The cricket is a good singer

He can sing very long

He sings all the time.

But he isn’t like the other birds.

If they’ve sung a little bit

They go somewhere else

The cricket remains where he is

When the heat is very fierce

Then he sings only for love.

 

La deploration sur la mort de Jehan Ockegham

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Wood-nymphs, goddesses of the fountains,

Skilled singers of every nation,

Turn your voices, so clear and lofty,

To piercing cries and lamentation

Because Atropos*, terrible satrap,

Has caught your Ockeghem in her trap,

The true treasurer of music and master,

Learned, handsome and by no means stout.

It is a source of great sorrow that the earth must cover him.

 

Put on the clothes of mourning,

Josquin, Pierre de la Rue, Brumel, Compère,

And weep great tears from your eyes,

For you have lost your good father.

May they rest in peace.

Amen. 

 

Justorum animae

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,

and the torment of death shall not touch them.

In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;

but they are in peace.

 

Ave Verum Corpus

Hail, true Body, born

of the Virgin Mary,

who having truly suffered, was sacrificed

on the cross for mankind,

whose pierced side

flowed with water and blood:

May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]

in the trial of death.

O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus,

O Jesus, son of Mary,

have mercy on me. Amen.

 

O Magnum Mysterium

O great mystery,

and wonderful sacrament,

that animals should see the new-born Lord,

lying in a manger!

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb

was worthy to bear

Christ the Lord.

Alleluia!

 

Psalm 96: Chantez a Dieu

Sing unto God new songs upraising, 

Sing thou, O world, His glory praising, 

Sing thou and bless His holy name. 

Yea from day to day tell His fame, 

Upon His great salvation gazing. 

 

Exultate Justi in Domino

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.

Give praise to the Lord on the harp; sing to him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings.

Sing to him a new canticle, sing well unto him with a loud noise.

Rejoice in the Lord

 

Salon 1/18/15 – van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1

The first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 was an event designed to demonstrate Soviet cultural superiority during the Cold War, on the heels of that country’s technological victory with the Sputnik launch in October 1957.

It was pretty much fore ordained that a Russian would win.

However Van Cliburn’s performance at the competition finale of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 on April 13 earned him a standing ovation lasting eight minutes.

When it was time to announce a winner, the judges were obliged to ask permission of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize!”

Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time the honor has been accorded a classical musician. His cover story in Time magazine proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia”

Tonight we will will listen to a performance by Van Cliburn recorded just after his shocking win, with the conductor the same as at the competition, invited to the US by Van Cliburn.  This was the first classical recording to ever go platinum.

 

The music

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was neither the greatest nor the most innovative musician of his time, yet his contributions to music are still felt today, for it was his gift to write beautiful, evocative melodies that are not easily forgotten. From the love theme of the Romeo and Juliet Overture (1870), to the music of Swan Lake (1877) or his Sixth Symphony (Pathétique, 1893), to the well-known opening of the Piano Concerto No. 1, his music has become almost inescapable, a part of the collective conscious.

Yet the oft-told tale of the Piano Concerto’s conception reminds us that even Tchaikovsky’s melodies could fail to charm. He completed the work in December of 1874, and dedicated it to his teacher and friend, the great Russian pianist Nikolai Rubinstein.

He described the scene in a letter to a friend: “I played the first movement. Not a word, not a remark. If you only knew how disappointing, how unbearable it is when a man offers his friend a dish of his work, and the other eats and remains silent!” Tchaikovsky played the entire piece and then, he wrote, Rubinstein told him it was “worthless, impossible to play, the themes have been used before … there are only two or three pages that can be salvaged and the rest must be thrown away!”

Rubinstein offered to play the piece if Tchaikovsky rewrote it, but the composer replied, “I won’t change a single note,” and instead gave it to the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow. Von Bülow did not share Rubinstein’s distate, and premiered the work in Boston on October 25, 1875. Though a critic there called it an “extremely difficult, strange, wild, ultra-modern Russian Concerto,” the audience was enthusiastic, as was a second audience in New York a week later, demanding an encore of the final movement. Rubinstein later recanted and performed the piece as well, while fifteen years later Tchaikovsky made some of the changes Rubinstein had requested. Rubinstein’s criticisms still have merit, for the piece is in some places nearly unplayable, while other passages for the soloist are barely audible. And the famous opening theme, for all its grandeur, is just as remarkable in its disappearance — for after storming in with blaring horns calls, sweeping strings, and maestoso ascending chords from the piano, the theme continues for only 110 measures and simply drops out of the piece, never to be heard again.

Yet it is at that point that the first movement, Allegro, may be said to truly begin. Two themes are introduced in double exposition, with the athletic first theme reappearing to interrupt the more restrained second at dramatic moments, and the piano “indulging in cadenza-like flights of startling execution,” as the Boston reviewer wrote in 1875. The movement ends in a burst of pyrotechnics from both orchestra and soloist.

The gentle Andantino simplice offers a respite from the bold gyrations of its predecessor, with the flute, oboe, and viola taking turns with the solo piano to develop the gentle, lilting first theme. The second theme is a rapid scherzo, based on a French song, “Il faut s’amuser, danser et rire” (One must amuse one’s self by dancing and laughing), a song favored by the opera singer Désirée Artôt, with whom Tchaikovsky had once been infatuated.

The first theme for the final Allegro is based on a Ukrainian folk song, “Viydi, viydi Ivanku,” (Come, come Ivanku), and it dances up and down in brilliant syncopations. A second, more lyrical theme sweeps in above the virtuosic piano line, and the piano answers in kind. The two themes build to a maestoso tutti followed by bravura fireworks all around.